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British Airways launches its new short-haul seats – Club Europe legroom slashed

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After a fair amount of speculation, British Airways announced yesterday that it is – with immediate effect – starting the interior conversion of its short-haul aircraft.

They are starting with the 95 Airbus aircraft with the A320’s being the first to be done.

The full press release is interesting and I have reproduced extracts at the bottom of this article. 

New BA short haul seat 1

Here is a summary of the changes, some of which is not in the press release but comes from internal BA documents published on Flyertalk:

All Heathrow and Gatwick short-haul Airbus aircraft to be refitted

New seats will be super-slim to allow for additional seats row to be squeezed in.  A320’s gain six seats to 168, A319’s gain 11 seats to 143.

Seat pitch in Club Europe to be reduced from 34 inches to 30 inches.  No change to the Eurotraveller seat pitch of 30 inches on most aircraft (a handful drop to 29 inches).

Club Europe seat width is to be reduced from 18 inches to 17.5 inches.

Built-in tablet holders on the back of seats to hold an iPad etc

Club Europe seats to have a built-in centre console table in the unused middle seat

Seat recline restricted to make it easier for customer behind to use laptops – Club Europe from 4.5 inches to 3 inches and Eurotraveller from 4.5 inches to 2 inches

Baby bassinets to be removed

No additional storage space to cater for the additional seats

Multi-coloured LED mood lighting to be introduced

These things are not clear at the moment:

In Club Europe, will the arm rests on the middle seats ‘swing in’ to allow for additional seat width?  (EDIT:  NO!  The width is being reduced from 18 inches to 17.5 inches!)

Is the console table easy to remove?  It might be more of a hindrance than a help when flying with small children.

New BA short haul seat 2

The photographs that have been released do look quite classy.   If you’ve ever flown Virgin Little Red you will also know that clever use of LED lighting can make an impressive impact as well.

It is easy to be cynical about changes like this but I think we should wait and see how the planes look and feel before passing too much comment.

That said, it is very difficult to see how the loss of four inches of Club Europe leg-room is going to improve the product.  British Airways defends this by saying that Lufthansa does the same.  Given that Lufthansa had a major profit warning last week and is leeching passengers to its competitors hand over fist, this is not a good omen ….  (BA still has better lounges than Lufthansa and, disturbingly, generally better Club Europe food as well!)

I am interested to see how the legroom on the emergency exit rows compares to the legroom in Club Europe.  Being well over 6 feet, will I be better off in a Eurotraveller exit row seat with the middle seat taken, or a Club Europe seat with the middle seat empty …..?

New BA short haul seat 3

Here is the full press release:

“Today we have unveiled newly-designed seats and cabin interiors for our short haul aircraft flying across our European and domestic networks from London Heathrow and London Gatwick.

Fitting-out work begins this week on the first of the 95 Airbus short haul aircraft, installing elegant new designs that take inspiration from our most recent fleet entrants, the A380 and Boeing 787. The first aircraft type to be refitted will be A320s.

The elegant charcoal grey leather seats are slimmer and ergonomically designed to enable the addition of extra seats in the Euro Traveller (economy) cabin to allow more low fares.

Innovative design maximises personal space and comfort, with chair backs devised to provide more knee space for the customer behind. Customers can also make use of an eye-level seatback tablet-holder, which can also provide storage for magazines. A four way moveable headrest provides comfort and support and the seat back table moves in and out to provide optimum positioning.

The new Club Europe, featuring a silver British Airways Speedmarque on the front wall, will maintain its 2:2 configuration with the middle seat free. The seats will be bridged with a stylish new ‘central console’ table, providing Club Europe customers with improved functional space. This table provides inlaid leather mats for drinks, snacks and personal devices, freeing up the main table for work or a meal.

Contemporary LED lighting systems, inspired by our newest long haul cabins, will include blue tones for boarding, a relaxing candle-lit mood for dining and a restful gentle white for cruising and landing.

The new cabin is a testament to British design. The new seats are manufactured by B/E Aerospace in Kilkeel, Northern Ireland, the leather for the seat covers and pads on the ‘central console’ is supplied by Andrew Muirhead & Son Ltd in Glasgow and the decorative stitching on the Club Europe seats has been developed by Prototrim, a car seat design and dressing specialist based in Milton Keynes.

The new interiors, to be fitted across the Airbus fleet over the next 12 months, are the most dramatic of a series of changes to our short haul flights. We have already introduced a range of new fare options including hand-baggage only, semi-flex and day returns, which are proving enormously popular with customers. Following the success of day return fares from London, we will today start rolling out day return fares for European travellers coming to London.

The new cabins will also deliver significant environmental benefits, saving an estimated five per cent in CO2 per passenger/km, contributing toward our target of reducing net carbon emissions by 50 per cent by 2050.”


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Comments (107)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Chris Sutter says:

    To reiterate the point I made on FT:

    Having slept over it, I’m going to go with “not too bad”. Certainly not as bad as other recent “enhancements” such as the food “appropriate to the time of day” in Galleries Club.

    I’m ecstatic that the current convertible seats are all going the way of the dodo in what is just a few months time from now. They’re in a horrible state, and I find them immensely uncomfortable. I’ve been on aircraft with the new Pinnacle seats numerous times and they truly are a world apart in terms of comfort. Anybody on here ranting about the fact that they are thinner than the old seats and drawing conclusions from that without having sat in them… please don’t. They are nothing like the seats on the ex-BMI frames and most certainly nowhere as uncomfortable as LH/OS/LX’s camping chairs.

    As for the actual/usable pitch discussion: The actual pitch may be reducing by 4″, but as Sixth Freedom pointed out repeatedly, that does not directly correspond to a 4″ reduction in legroom. That said, I find it incredibly weird that this change will actually lead to a net increase of legroom in ET on all aircraft but the A319. This is just guesstimation on my part, but judging from the depth of the old convertible seat versus the new seat, CE will lose around an inch or two of usable legroom. However, given that the new seats will be even thinner than the spacesaver seats currently installed behind the convertible seats, and ET mostly retains the same actual pitch, usable legroom will actually increase by half an inch or so. I don’t understand why they didn’t reduce ET pitch to 29″ (which wouldn’t have made much of a difference with the new seat) across the fleet and used that to give 1-1.5″ extra pitch to the front ten rows.

    Are BA really that desperate to ensure ET pax in forward rows don’t get “more than they deserve”? And what in the name of Icarus is up with the increased recline for CE seats if the pitch is the same as ET?

    And finally, we can moan all we want, but the cynical reference to LH in the internal comms about this has a point: The competition is just as bad. And £69 POUG for a blocked middle seat, some more peace and quiet, TPs and better (or at least less bad) soft product remains good value to me, even if it is marginally worse than before.

  • flyforfun says:

    So, with the changes to aircraft going on, I guess now is not the time to book and pay for a seat. Or if I book an exit row seat, will I still get it if the config changes?

    Not happy about the changes, in particular the reduction of recline from 4.5″ to just 2″. Not everyone works on board, but we’re all being punished so a few slackards who can’t get their work done before they board can spend a few minutes more tarting up a powerpoint slide deck. Grrr.

    • Chris Sutter says:

      I have never tarted up a PowerPoint presentation (or indeed done any work) on board a plane, and I still hate people who recline their seats with the fire of a thousand suns 😉

      Particularly those fabulous specimens who recline during meal service, making it next to impossible to eat – even with the old 34″ pitch.

    • tim says:

      The reduction in recline is the best thing about it in my opinion. Recline is not needed for a 2 hour daytime flight. In my view what you gain in being able to recline your own seat is greatly outweighed by what you loose when the person in front reclines theirs.

      • Dave Williams says:

        @tim – I agree 100%.I NEVER recline my seat unless my flight is over 5 hours and I want to sleep – its a small reward for the hassle it causes the person behind.

        For reference – Im no midget (sorry – small person) – I’m 6 foot 2 and athletically (if I do say so myself 🙂 ) built with wide shoulders, I fly BA short haul return to EMEA somewhere almost every week of the year. I always book economy (via work HR portal) and have never had a problem with the leg room – I used to set an alarm to book my seats 24 hours before the flight (pre- status) but gave up when I realised that I would prefer an empty seat next to me to an extra few inches between my knees and the seat in front of me (when the flight isnt rammed).

        I paid for an upgrade to CE the other day to see what all the fuss is about beyond the curtain on a 3 hour flight – worst £80 I have ever spent. Why people spend more money on the few minute extra comforts is beyond me. Long haul is a very different matter though 🙂 – this site has helped me make the most of my miles when I travel for holidays in style!!! Thanks Raffles 🙂

        • flyforfun says:

          If I’m up at the crack of dawn to get a flight, or coming home late in the day, I want to recline and sleep. Even for 30 or 60 minutes. I’ve even managed to do it on my 12 minute tube journey to work.

          If you never recline your seat, then bully for you.

          • tim says:

            If you can sleep on a tube train then recline is clearly not needed for you to sleep.

          • Dave Williams says:

            Sleeping on the tube is a dangerous game 🙂 great way to see the suburbs….

          • Rich. S says:

            There should be sufficient seat pitch for those that want to recline and snooze to be able to do so. If you don’t want to recline…. Bully for you, too!

            We seem to forget that a full fRe J ticket that some of us have to pay is
            Eye wateringly expensive. ££££££ the airline needs to remember that and not kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.

            It would be great if things got better, not worse.

            The new seats and general arrangements look like they are going to be great for dirt and grime.

  • Anon says:

    Saw this, if only I hadn’t already seen GoT S4.

    • Kathryn Dowd says:

      Ahem, yes, I had that same thought. It’s a good cc point deal if you haven’t already watched the entire series. Now, if it was an offer for the DVDs, which come with lots of extras, I might be tempted.

  • Bigglesgirl says:

    Well that’s the end of my BA CE flights – the only reason why I dragged myself 2-3 hours up the M4 from Gloucestershire to fly from Heathrow to get all the added extras of CE, including the leg room. Not now that they’re tending towards Ryanair standards I’ll fly from my local airport at BHX with Lufty now and save myself the petrol and stress of driving to London (after all, at least Ryanair fly from BHX!)

  • JB says:

    This is awful news. As a regular long haul business traveller with a choice of airlines and loyalty schemes, this would definitely tip me towards flying Virgin to the US and Singapore/Thai etc to Asia.

    Ironic too that a desire to listen to passengers via focus groups has led to this perverse outcome. If BA is still listening, please urgently review the decision …

    Finally on a practical note, if the seats are closer together, tall people like me will find the angle for viewing tablets in the new mounting less practical if the seats are closer together, resulting in a double whammy for CE passengers.

    • Dave Williams says:

      @JB – I’m confused – this change is for short haul CE planes isnt it? Why would this change your airline choice for flights to the US/Asia? Principle?

      • JB says:

        Dave – I confess there is an element of disappointment making me dig my heels in.

        I would add that since joining the scheme I have used my avios on short haul European flights, with the CE upgrade being an important component of the value. If I, or my wife, feel that CE is no longer a premium treat, it removes a huge part of the incentive. I would seriously consider a complete strategy shift, paying for short haul with easyjet and saving points wih another scheme for long haul leisure journeys.

  • Rich. S says:

    We should remember that BA will often sell you an extra seat or very little cash as you don’t have to pay all the surcharges, so if two of you are traveling it can be a good option, particularly if you then nook the exit row……

    CE should be improved, not made worse!

  • tim says:

    The ET seat width is being reduced from 18 to 17 inches. Does this mean that the aisle becomes 6 inches wider?

    • Rob says:

      It is Club Europe which gets narrower seats, economy should be the same.

      • Tim says:

        Economy SHOULD stay the same, but it isn’t. Business class goes from 19.5 to 17 inches. Economy is gping from 18 to 17 inches.

        This isn’t just a question of business going to the same width as economy (which whilst I don;t agree with has a certain operational effiiciency and means that they don;t need to install adjustable arm rests). Business class is going to be narrower than economy class is at the moment and the new economy class is getting narrower for no reason at all!

  • Koshka says:

    A couple of random thoughts on the reduced recline. I’ve come dangerously close to having my laptop broken when the lip of the table storage gets put down so this should reduce the risk of this happening. It should also help parents with older infants who are getting too big to sit on the parents lap for the whole flight. This relies on legroom staying the same – it was something I never paid any attention to until we compared SAS to BA when our son was younger. BA need up with all of our business after we experienced a SAS 737 with the same layout as a Ryanair plane. He could stand in front of us on BA but it was impossible on SAS.

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